The Palisade Problem

Palisade Plunge

The Palisade Plunge is an exceptional trail and an important resource for the Grand Valley. It was designed to serve as a trail that would draw mountain bikers from around the world to challenge themselves on a trail that descended 6,000 feet. An experience only available on 3-4 other trails in the world. Unfortunately, the project has been corrupted by COPMOBA Board leadership.

The Problems

  • Since the creation of COPMOBA Chapters, every trail project completed by COPMOBA has been done at the Chapter level. The Palisade Plunge which was managed at the Board level.
  • Projects managed by Chapters are managed by a team of volunteers from the Chapter. The Palisade Plunge was managed almost exclusively by one person; the COPMOBA Board President. This was at the insistence of the Board President who actively prevented engaged, experienced members from being involved.
  • The Palisade Plunge trail finishes in Palisade where there is one bike shop, Rapid Creek Cycles. That bike shop is owned by the COPMOBA Board President.
  • Initially and currently, there are three permits issued to provide shuttle services for the Palisade Plunge. Rapid Creek Cycles received one of those three permits and has actively worked to prevent other companies from receiving shuttle permits. Rapid Creek Cycles has contested all new PUC applications.
  • The Palisade Plunge trail project is the most expensive project COPMOBA has ever been involved in. Without an Annual Report or public financial disclosures, Membership and the community is unable to determine whether the project was run responsibly.
  • When inquiries were made to whether the Board reviewed the very clear conflict of interest, the Executive Director stated that the Board had reviewed the situation and found no issue. No evidence of this review or action by the Board of Directors is supported in Board Meeting Minutes.
  • Sadly, on June 12th, 2022, the Palisade Plunge had its first fatality. An out of town rider died of cardiac arrest due to heat exhaustion/stroke while riding the lower section of trail. One wonders if this unfortunate death might have been prevented. If the trail had bail-out options, had a better communications about the risks involved, or a different line, could this tragedy have been avoided? Did the COPMOBA Board President, as the sole representative, explore every option to make the trail the best trail it could be?

The Maintenance Challenge

The complexity and scale of the Palisade Plunge is now a huge, ongoing challenge for the organization. Volunteer crews can access sections of the trail, but much of the trail is too remote for any significant maintenance work without multi-day efforts. These are typically beyond the scope of volunteers. As a result, professional crews will need to be hired to do the more complex and more remote maintenance work. Maintenance on the trail is estimated by the Board President to be more than $20,000 a year.

There exists no fundraising mechanism within the organization to fund that effort and because the Grand Valley Canyons (GVC) Chapter was excluded from most of the involvement of the development of the trail, the Chapter in which the Palisade Plunge exists, much of the burden of maintaining the trail will be the responsibility of the Chapter without the opportunity to participate in the original project.

The Safety Challenge

If one simply looks at the basic stats of the lower half it looks like fun; ~18 miles, 6,000 of descent, end up in the town of Palisade. But the reality is betrayed by those basic statistics. The trail starts at over 9,500 feet in an alpine environment and finishes at just over 5,000 feet in a desert valley. There can be 40+ degrees different temperature between the top and the bottom. Starting in refreshing 60 degrees has you finishing in 100 degree weather. The last 10+ miles can be 90+ degrees and it is strenuous riding with little or no water on the ride so you have to bring your own. Heat exhaustion has already claimed one life on the trail.

But it is the exposure that offers the most dramatic risk and that what most people talk about after their ride. There are stretches of the Palisade Plunge that have riders traversing 1,000+ foot cliffs, and switchbacking down technical trail where a mistake could result in falls of hundreds of feet. If you aren’t prepared for the mental challenge of riding on the edge of a cliff, then the Plunge might be too much.

The Plunge starts off as a fun XC trail with the first ~17 miles riding atop the Grand Mesa. The drop off of Shirttail Point is the first real taste of the technical challenge ahead, but the Plunge gets steadily harder and the consequences become more significant. And if it gets to be too much, there is no bailout option. This remote, expert trail is the only way off the mountain. And that fact might be the most important safety challenge. Every other trail in the Grand Valley offers intersections onto other trails providing options. The Plunge requires 100% commitment. Once you start, the only way out is to finish the trail.